10.6.05

PUSHING PRODUCTIVITY TOO FAR. Northern Illinois University is another institution of higher education that has gone to a four-day week during the summer session (the rationale is to spend a lot less on electricity and air conditioning; one of these days the private sector will discover the backward-bending supply curve and end the work week at noon on Friday. Those of you with long memories will recall when the work week ended at noon on Saturday for most people; the Fair Labor Standards Act simply institutionalized an economic phenomenon in progress. But I digress) which meant I had no guilt slipping away to explore the newest exercise in intermodalism: the Amtrak Hiawatha to Milwaukee's Mitchell Field. There is a special timetable in force making allowances for Form B work (engineering possessions, for my continental readers, which can be done under traffic in North America) keeping the corridor in shape for 79 mph running as well as providing some additional crossovers (one pair has been installed near the old A-68 interlocking at Caledonia, and another might be installed on the Milwaukee side of the airport station, which is one platform on the east track occupying space formerly devoted to the eastbound siding at Lake.) Those possessions, however, can lay out trains. I did a bit of exploring this time; riding from Chicago to the airport station, getting lunch at the airport (where the trains are listed on the arrival and departure boards, and where passengers have to walk farther from curbside to United's puddle-jumpers than they have to walk to the trackside, despite the station being laid out like an airport, with the long side perpendicular to the tracks) and then unloading at Sturtevant to watch a few freight trains. But here is the productivity problem: train 335 off Chicago at 1.05 is a half hour late at Sturtevant (2.34, which puts it into Milwaukee at about 3.00, the time that equipment is supposed to leave Milwaukee as 338.) The crew did a good job turning the train and kept their good humor, leaving Sturtevant at 3.45 and arriving Chicago at 4.59, again, about 30 minutes late with eight minutes to turn the train to leave as 339 at 5.08. The commuter train services were a minute or two off as well, but that morning drill with two or three trains arriving at the south end within five minutes, and another two arriving at the north end in the same time interval.

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